Becca's Lockdown Diary (part 1)

William turned two this week, and we had so many plans. A party at home with friends and family, gifts, a big cake and lots of food and laughter. I had visions of him scooting around the back garden with the other kids, while all of us reminisced about the past two years and stuffing our faces with sandwiches and fine pieces. But it wasn’t to be. Don’t get me wrong we had a lovely day in the sun with just the three of us, but it got me thinking.

Lockdown has exposed many of us to a very different reality – at home with our partners and children, separated from the friends and family we love, or maybe on our own. We’re all being pulled in different directions with many of us feeling pressure from work to perform as if everything is normal. We are all experiencing things differently based upon our own circumstances.

Let's not sugar coat it - we're all struggling in our own way, and the world is a scary place right now. The death count continues to rise. Jobs are being lost. The economy is in turmoil.

None of us know how long this will last or what life will look like after the restrictions are lifted and we try to get back to some form of 'normality'. I've been thinking a lot lately and feel like I need to use this time to make positive changes in our lives as a family. Let me tell you what's been on my mind.

I've taken my family for granted

We are an incredibly close family.

My Nan always has the kettle on because she knows someone would be walking through the door any minute. Growing up, my life revolved around my Grandparents house and in particular the kitchen – my Mum and Aunt would have their fly cup before heading to work (they still do) and my cousins and I would all descend on their house after school before heading home for dinner when our Mum’s finished work. When I started university, I was either studying or working and only saw family at weekends.

Then when I started work and moved to Aberdeen, it became the occasional phone call and a trip up the road once a month. When William was born this naturally changed and I’ve been used to spending every Monday with my family watching William bond with his Grandparents and great Grandparents. He loves it, and it breaks my heart when he brings me his red shoes (his Nan’s favourite) and asks to go to his Nan and Grandad’s house.

William is used to Andrew’s mum (aka ‘Granny’) looking after him for at least two full days each week. They’ve got such a lovely bond and it’s breaking her heart not seeing him. We’re so used to catching up over dinner every Wednesday and it’s bizarre not setting the table for the four of us.

People are losing loved ones. Families aren’t able to grieve together as funerals are being limited to a small number of close family members. It’s heart-breaking to think that people are being separated from loved ones. Being isolated, away from my family, makes me realise how much I take them for granted. I’m determined this won’t happen again.

I have a very unhealthy relationship with food

So, I knew this one already. But I don’t think I’d really faced up to it. I actually think it’s something I need to address properly, and I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort over the last week. I’m so damn greedy it’s ridiculous - who in their right mind needs two brownies with their mocha (OK fine...three if Andrew's not there).

Baking chocolate chip cookies at 7am for breakfast was really the last straw. Who knows, if I manage to do something about it, I might lose the last 10lbs I’ve been blaming on baby weight for the last two years? Lets see.

I don't need so much 'stuff'

Normally, I’m a marketers dream and a hoarder. Not a great combination and a source of much frustration for Andrew.

My cupboard (OK cupboard’s) of toiletries and cosmetics are embarrassing, especially when most of them are unused. I have a habit of buying clothes I never wear and then wearing the same four or five outfits to death, resulting in charity shops benefiting from lovely new stuff with tags on every season.

I don’t need any of these things. I’m actually happy without them and I’m using the very little down time I have to have a right clear out.

I NEED down time

I’m struggling massively with the lack of down time. We’ve basically re-structured the business so that I’m working approximately ten hours per week, mainly at lunchtimes and in the evenings, and the rest of the time I look after William. This means that Andrew, as the main recruiter and fee earner, can spend his time on the business. It means he can fully focus on his work without worrying about us.

But my God it’s hard. I don’t know how I coped being a stay at home mum for 20 months. I take my hat off to people who can! It’s relentless.

When William’s having quiet time with Andrew, I’m working. And then in the evenings when he’s in bed, I’m grabbing another hour of work or catching up on chores. I’m sure many of you are feeling this way.

I am shattered, properly done in. I forgot how hard it was to keep a little person entertained all day, even when we’re just playing outside. And he speaks ALL THE TIME…no idea where he gets it from, but I get a feeling I’m going to understand why my own Mum sent me to my Grandparents every weekend from the age of two!

I might actually like exercise

Can’t believe I’m writing this - maybe lockdown is making me mad after all?!

I think I like exercise. I just hate gyms. I think it comes down to the fact that I’m really not very good at organised group activities. I’m also far too self conscious to work out properly at a gym or outdoors in front of other people. William and I have been out for a morning walk every day since lockdown for at least 30 minutes. I’m doing a Joe Wicks HIIT session for 15/20 minutes daily and I’m often chasing William around the garden for most of the afternoon.

Being outside, in my comfy clothes, with no one to judge me but myself and a toddler who thinks I’m cuddly (he told me that while poking at my tummy…thanks!) makes me feel so much better. On days where I’m feeling like I’m ready to implode it’s an absolute necessity. I’m very lucky that I live in the countryside in a beautiful part of Aberdeenshire, so walks for us are around country tracks and the wood behind our home. If I was in town and felt pressure to wash my hair and put my ‘face on’ I’m sure I’d feel very differently.

I love being alone

OK, I’m not truly alone because there’s physically three of us here most of the time. Yes, I miss my family and friends but I’m also enjoying the peace of being alone.

The small windows of time that I have to work, to write blogs, even to do the ironing on my own are blissful. I know it sounds sad, but it’s true. I really like my own space.

It probably comes from being a bit of a loner at school and not really fitting in at university. Although my job means I’ve had to be sociable, I’m most comfortable in my own company – throw on some comfy’s, hair up, music on and I’m happy. Perhaps that’s why I’m personally struggling less with isolation than friends and family who class themselves as more extroverted?

We can work from home, and it can be great

OK, take away the fact that most of us are working with distractions in the house – children, spouses, pets, even parents for some of you.

Most companies didn’t believe that it would be possible for us to work remotely. How could this ever work, what would happen to productivity, how could we control our teams, would everyone be sitting in their PJ’s all day, would they be outside in the sun on a nice day? Well, maybe the last one was true on Wednesday (scorcher eh?!).

Most of us are realising the benefits of working from home. Have you ever heard the term that “offices are distraction factories”? Do me a favour – just for a second, don’t think about the pain or guilt you’re feeling trying to juggle your personal priorities and think purely about work. How does it look and feel working from home? How could this look and feel under normal circumstances if you had the time and space to plan it properly?

So many people have been commenting about how productive they are. No constant interruptions or distractions. How many of you sailed through month end (if you’re accountants) knowing you could get your head down without a barrage of questions from the people sitting beside you in your open plan office? Yes, we’ve heard of lots of you struggling to adjust to home working but for most people we’re only three to four weeks in. It’s to be expected at this stage, give yourself a break.

Lets not forget the additional benefits such as a lack of a daily commute, less mileage on your car, less pollution. The list goes on.

It’ll be interesting to see how companies adapt once lockdown is lifted. From the conversations we’re having already, I think it’ll look very different. I hope so.

I love my job

This isn’t a backhanded sales tactic or marketing strategy. It’s the truth. I’m really loving my job right now. I can’t deny that it’s stressful and it can be difficult to stay positive when a high number of calls are with people who are losing their jobs or having to furlough staff. But it makes me realise the important part we play in people’s lives.

We are spending more time than ever on the phone or on Zoom, rather than rushing between emails. We’re also offering more coaching and advice, and generally people have been extremely grateful. In fact, we’ve helped several organisations for free recently as it just felt like the right thing to do.

It’s made me realise that I’ve done the right thing coming back into recruitment. It’s also made me realise how lucky I am to work for myself. I know that many recruiters have been furloughed and if not, they’re finding it tough like everyone else. I’ve previously worked for a business which had to fold during a recession, so we were very conscious when starting Vero to have as little overheads as possible and to ensure that our business was responsive and agile, and able to survive the hard times.

I NEED routine

Andrew and I like routine, we always have. But I didn’t realise how much I needed it. Of course, we go with the flow to a point. Perhaps it’s a control thing for me. We realised 24 hours into this lockdown that we had to make a plan and come up with a routine so that we could still keep the business running at full capacity, while giving William the care and attention he needs.

I don’t know why, but a lack of plan or routine makes me quite anxious. Given everything that’s going on it’s more important than ever to remove any sources of stress of anxiety where you can. Who am I kidding…OF COURSE it’s a control thing for me!

I really love where we live

We joked one night that lockdown was very well timed in this respect. In January, out of nowhere, we both had the same thought - would it be better for William to grow up in the city/suburbs rather than out here in the countryside? We don’t need all the rooms we have and it’s a bit out of the way for family. I’d been on ASPC a few times and pulled a potential shortlist together (of course) and we spent afternoons driving around the areas we liked to scope them out.

Then we started lockdown. And I realised how lucky we are to have space. I realised how much I love our home and I don’t think I ever want to move.

We bought this place just before we got married seven years ago and had always planned for it to be our family home.

Whenever we’re on holiday, we always check out the real estate offices and dream about having a place abroad in a few years. However, I’m a home bird really and can't ever imagine not living here.

I guess it’s the trap we all fall into at some point – taking things for granted and wanting what we don’t have. A primary human affliction, I suppose.

I'm very, very lucky

OK, so I knew this one already. But I don’t think I realised just how lucky I am.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful husband and business partner in Andrew.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful family in Peterhead who still look out for each other and who ensure my grandparents are well cared for during this time.

I’m lucky to have a mother-in-law who dotes on her boys and looks forward to her daily FaceTime call with Andrew and William.

I’m lucky to have a group of great ante-natal pals who keep each other sane and who make me feel better on my bad days.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a funny, kind and cuddly little boy who has adapted unbelievably well to having his whole life and routine turned upside down over night.

And I’m lucky to have a roof over my head, food in my fridge and money in the bank to tide us over.

Lastly, the media is full of s**t

If, like me, you’ve been watching the daily Coronavirus briefings from Downing Street, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about.

Have you heard one single decent question being asked by any of the reporters? I certainly haven’t.

What I have seen in the press is the twisting of words, and on one occasion I recall blatant lying.

Given, politicians aren’t much better but hell, we’re all in this together and it’s time that we all pull together.

Do yourself a favour. Yes, keep up to date with current affairs but be very mindful of how much news you are consuming.

If it’s feeding your anxiety, take a break from it all. Unfollow them on your social feeds and limit your exposure. Trust me, you’ll feel miles better!

What now?

None of us know how long the lockdown is going to last or what life will look like on the other side. For every good day that I have, I also have my bad days. What I don’t want to do is to miss this unique opportunity to make some positive changes. And I'd encourage everyone to do the same.

As for this blogs title - “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”? I’d love to take credit for it, but it was authored by Stanford economist Paul Romer in 2004. I think have to agree with him. Stay safe.